Tourist hordes can really tax one's patience

City talk | Susan Liang 10 May 2019

Macau, like Hong Kong, is now struggling with how to handle a burgeoning number of tourists.

Are these tourists a problem or a blessing?

The majority of these tourists bring little or nothing to our city, they only make up statistics that look good but may prove to be a time bomb.

We must choose now whether we want quality or quantity, especially since our city is tiny, our resources are scarce and we have to protect the local populace from such a huge influx.

I suggest the government impose an entry/tourism tax on group tours. I believe Japan has a similar tax.

This way, we do away with the type of tourists we don't want.

Even the short and narrow street I live in has now become a drop-off point for big tourist buses from the mainland.

When the police chase these coaches away they make a turn and come back after the officers leave.

The situation is quite out of control and I was forced to walk on the road instead of the pavement to get home, which is quite dangerous.

Alternatively, the government should impose a quota on these group tours from the mainland.

They are a major problem for which we need action now.

If this government fails to act quickly, there will be a repeat of what happened with our property market.

That was when, due to SARS and the resulting economic downturn, the government introduced the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme.

The scheme attracted thousands of mainlanders to quickly and cheaply procure residence by buying up properties, sending prices up so high that locals could no longer afford to buy.

It was only suspended after 12 years by then chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Now we have the double stamp duty if you own more than one property.

The second one you buy will attract the duty, so sometimes a married couple may decide to buy and hold a property in a single name without executing and stamping a declaration of trust even though they both paid for it just to avoid the double stamp duty.

Quite a number of properties owned by mainlanders are left empty and this has resulted in the government imposing a vacancy tax.

So the mainland factor is affecting both our tourism and property market.

A good example of how tourism can be best managed is in Bhutan.

I do suggest that the government look into its scheme, whereby certain areas are off limits without a pass/permit.

These days I hardly go to The Peak as it is crowded with tour buses and no longer the place I used to know.

What I fear is that unless controlled we will frighten away the quality tourists.

So far, we have good seasonal tourists for events like the Rugby Sevens and the Art Basel, which is to be encouraged.

Kowloon taxis that reject tourist fares for trips around Hong Kong Island should have a sign over their meter that says Kowloon instead of an out-of-service sign, which can cause a lot of misunderstanding.

I often have to help explain the situation to these tourists when they are rejected by taxi drivers after queueing up.

I hope the government will also tidy up the practices of the taxi service in Hong Kong for our quality tourists.

Susan Liang is a lawyer who likes to speak her mind on issues that concern the man on the street

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